Can HRT for menopause improve skin? HRT stands for hormone replacement therapy and it can play an important role in the menopausal stage of a woman’s life. The question came up after spending the last several weeks on the various aspects of women and aging. Menopause is a life changing experience and for some menopausal symptoms can be quite severe and require medical therapy to maintain a good quality of life. The choice of whether or not to start HRT is a very individual decision. Women who are in the early stages of menopause (typically under 60) and who have moderate to severe symptoms will benefit the most from estrogen therapy.
HRT comes in several forms, including oral, topical, and transdermal (patch). The best choice depends on which symptoms are being targeted. For example, a woman looking for relief from severe hot flashes would likely benefit from systemic estrogen therapy, such as oral or transdermal. The pill versus patch mainly comes down to personal choice and the expense, as these two options are equally effective. The topical options, such as a vaginal ring or hormonal gel or spray, would be a better choice for dealing with vaginal dryness.
Note that progestin is added to estrogen therapy for women who have an intact uterus. This prevents the development of harmful side effects.
How Does HRT Improve the Skin
How can HRT for Menopause Improve Skin? You may have heard the term skin atrophy and wondered what it meant. It just means that our skin loses fat, collagen and muscle mass as we age, so it becomes thinner. When the skin is thicker it holds onto water and oil better between the tissue, therefore it stays hydrated longer. It is believed that using estrogen therapy early on maintains the thickness of skin. I say “believed” since I wasn’t able to find enough data to show that this is a definitive fact.
Risks of HRT
Hormone replacement therapy is a proven way to reduce hot flashes and vaginal atrophy. Some women may see improvements in balance, eye dryness, and cataracts. However, it has not been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as osteoporosis or breast cancer. For some people, hormonal therapy may increase the risk of stroke and venous thromboembolism (blood clots). This risk tends to be lower when taking topical/ transdermal estrogen versus oral therapy.
Due Diligence on HRT Prescriptions
Anytime we are prescribed medication it’s important to look up what it’s made from before committing. Animal-testing is essential for drugs going to market that will be used on humans. However, on-going cruelty is something we can control. Take Premarin for example, the name says it all: Pre-Mar-in which means that this particular HRT is composed of the urine from pregnant mares. It is a CEE (conjugated equine estrogen). There are several CEE drugs like this, such as, Prempro, Premphase, Duavee and Duavive. Ask your doctor for an alternative FDA-approved synthetic bioidentical HRT to replace the CEEs.
Animals are used daily to save the lives of humans and we owe it to them to minimize unnecessary cruelty. If you’ve taken one of these drugs or want to support horses in general you can donate to the Fund for Horses organization. Lastly, equine estrogen is linked to cancer in humans, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to avoid it.
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Photo credits from Unsplash: BBH Singapore, Jordan Butler and The Tonik
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